Blue Lily, Lily Blue Page 27

He did not want to get hit.

It was a strange realization. It wasn’t that Adam had ever gotten used to being struck. Pain was a wondrous thing that way; it always worked. But back when he’d lived at home, he’d gotten used to the idea of that sort of intimate violence. Now, though, enough days had passed that he had stopped expecting it, which made the sudden possibility of it somehow more intolerable.

He did not want to get hit.

He would do what he needed to do to not get hit.

Anticipation trembled in his hands.

Cabeswater is not the boss of you, Persephone’s voice said.

“Adam, I’m being real decent here, but you’re trying my patience sorely,” his father told him. “At least pretend like you heard what I said.”

“I heard,” Adam replied.

“Sass. Nice.”

Just because it tantrums doesn’t mean it’s more right than you.

To the shelf, Adam said, “I think you should go.”

He felt cowardly and boneless.

“So that’s how it’s going to be?”

That was how it was going to be.

“You should know, then, that you’re going to look like a fool in that courtroom, Adam,” Robert Parrish said. “People know me and they know what kind of man I am. You and I both know this is just a pathetic cry for attention, and everyone else will, too. It’s too easy to look at you and see what kind of shit you’ve become. Don’t think I don’t know where this comes from. You prancing around with those entitled bitch-boys.”

Part of Adam was still there with his father, but most of him was retreating. The better part of him. That Adam, the magician, was no longer in his apartment. That Adam walked through trees, running his hand along the moss-covered stones.

“Court’s gonna see right through that. And you know what you’re going to be then? In the papers as that kid who wanted to put his hardworking daddy in jail.”

The leaves rustled, close and protective, pressing up against his ears, curled in his fists. They didn’t mean to frighten. They only ever tried to speak his language and get his attention. It was not fearsome Cabeswater’s fault that Adam had already been a fearful boy when he’d made the bargain.

“You think they’re really gonna look at you and see an abused kid? Do you even know what abuse is? That judge will’ve heard enough stories to know a whopper. He’s not gonna blink an eye.”

The branches leaned toward Adam, curling around him protectively, a thicket with thorns pointed outward. It had tried, before, to cling to his mind, but now it knew to surround his body. He’d asked to be separate, and Cabeswater had listened. I know you are not the same as him, Adam said. But in my head, everything is always so tangled. I am such a damaged thing.

“So we’re back where we started, you and me, when I came here. You can call off that hearing quick as you please, and this all goes away.”

The rain splattered down through the leaves, turning them upside down, trickling onto Adam.

“And look at you, and I’ve just been talking to you. Practicing for your day in court? At least pretend like I haven’t been talking to a wall. What the hell —?”

The braying note in his father’s voice brought Adam rushing back to himself. One hand was poised in the air, as if he had meant to touch Adam, or had already, and was withdrawing.

In the meat of his palm, a small thorn protruded. A thread of blood trembled from the wound, bright as a miracle.

Plucking the thorn free, his father regarded Adam, this thing he had made. He was silent for a long moment, and then something registered in his face. It wasn’t quite fear, but it was uncertainty. His son was before him, and he did not know him.

I am unknowable.

Robert Parrish began to speak, but then he didn’t. Now he had seen something in Adam’s face or eyes, or felt something in that thorn that pricked him, or maybe, like Adam, he could now smell the scent of a damp forest floor in the apartment.

“You’re going to be a fool in that courtroom,” his father said finally. “Are you going to say anything?”

Adam was not going to say anything.

His father slammed the door behind him as he left.

Adam stood there for a long moment. He wiped the heel of his hand over his right eye and cheek, then dried it on his slacks.

He climbed back into his bed and closed his eyes, hands balled to his chest, scented with mist and with moss.

When he closed his eyes, Cabeswater was still waiting for him.


“The thing that amazes me,” Greenmantle mused aloud, “is that there are some people who actually do this as a form of leisure. People who trade vacation days for this experience. It dazzles, really. I have absolutely no idea where we are. I’m assuming you’d have said something if we were lost and/or were going to die down here.”

The Greenmantles were in a cave: wife, husband, dog, an American cave family. Piper had discovered that Otho, when left alone, ate through the bathroom doors of rental homes, so he now minced ahead of her. The cave was dark and armpit-scented. Greenmantle had done a perfunctory amount of research on caving before setting out this afternoon. He’d discovered that caves were supposed to be vessels of natural untouched beauty.

It turned out they were just holes in the ground. He felt caves had been extremely oversold.

“We’re not going to die down here,” Piper said. “I have book club on Tuesday.”

“Book club! You’ve only been here two weeks and you’re in a book club.”

“What else am I supposed to do while you’re out finding yourself? Just hang around the house, getting fat, I suppose? Don’t say ‘talk to your little friends on the phone’ because I’ll put this pickax through your right eye.”

“What’s the book?”

Piper pointed the flashlight at the ceiling and then the damp floor. Both the flashlight beam and Piper’s lip curled in disgust. “I don’t remember the title. Something about citrus. It’s a literary memoir of a young woman coming of age on an orange plantation set against a backdrop of war and subversive class struggle with possible religious undertones or something like that. Don’t say ‘I’d rather die.’ ”

“I didn’t say anything,” Greenmantle replied, although he had indeed been considering “I’d rather die” as a candidate to further the conversation. He preferred spy thrillers that involved dashing men who were slightly over thirty darting in and out of high-technology shadows while driving fast cars and making important phone calls. He held up the EMF reader in his hand to see if he could vary the degree of flashing going on across its face. He could not.

Otho had stopped to relieve himself; Piper flicked out a plastic baggie.

“This is pointless. Did you just put that shit in your bag?”

“I saw a spot on ABC about how ecotourism is denuding caves,” she informed him. “That face? The one you’re wearing now? Is part of the problem. You are part of the problem.”

Holes in the ground were, in Greenmantle’s opinion, the very best place to throw dog crap into. He swiped the EMF reader across the wall with one hand and a geophone with the other. He would have gotten an identical amount of insight if he’d been holding a flare and a ukulele. “What I’m going to do is hire a billion million minions to come look in caves for this woman, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll just eviscerate her daughter in front of the Gray Man instead.”

“Minions! I don’t want a million minions tramping around down here. I want to explore my psychic connections without all that grunting going on.”

“Your psychic connections!” He felt her glaring at him; the skin on the back of his neck was melting. “Fine, I’ll tell them to be tactful.”

“You know what? You should let me have two of them, to help me in my life goals.”


“I could call them and pretend to be you. Hi, thugman, this is Colin, could you do me a solid?” She did a passable job of his voice, if slightly too nasal and in love with itself. She stopped short, legs apart, blond hair billowing around her like a caving photo shoot. For a strange, slipping moment, Greenmantle thought that he’d found her in the cave and was bringing her back to the light, and then he remembered the bag of dog shit and how they’d gotten here. He thought that this cave was probably full of carbon monoxide. He was probably dying.

Piper asked, “Did you hear that?”

“The sound of you mocking me?”

She didn’t reply. She was frowning down the tunnel, her chin lifted, her eyebrows pushed together as if she were listening. He thought about someone sleeping. He thought about waking them up.

“The sound of my love?” he tried.

She still didn’t reply. She was still listening.

“The sound of you creeping me the hell out?”

But really he was creeping himself out.

Finally, she turned back to him. She did not look as if she had heard the sound of his love. She said, “I definitely need two of your minions. Let’s get back to a cell phone signal.”

He was very happy to oblige. He never wanted to see a cave again.


Gansey might have found Gwenllian, but Blue had to live with her. All of the women of 300 Fox Way had to, actually. It was like living with a natural disaster, or a feral child, or a feral natural child disaster.

For starters, she didn’t sleep. She shouted at Calla that she had had enough sleep for one thousand lifetimes and that she intended to spend the rest of this one awake, and then proceeded to do just that. At small hours of the morning, Blue would wake and hear her clogging around in the attic above her room.

Then there was her manner of dress. Her supernatural awareness inside the tomb had given her just enough exposure to the changing outside world to not be shocked by the existence of cars or befuddled by the English language, but not enough to award her any social customs. So she wore what she wanted to wear (Blue could at least respect the motivation, if not the outcome), which was always a dress, sometimes two or three on top of each other, sometimes backward. This often involved stealing clothing from other people’s closets. Blue was spared only because she was so much shorter.

There were problems with mealtimes, too: For Gwenllian, every time was mealtime. She seemed to have neither sense of fullness nor taste, and would often combine foods in manners that struck Blue as problematic. She didn’t believe in telling people how to live their lives (well, maybe a little), but it was hard to stand by and watch Gwenllian spread peanut butter on a cold hot dog.

And there was the crazy part. Forty percent of what came out of her mouth came out in song, and the rest was a varied mixture of chanting, screaming, mocking, and creepy whisper. She climbed on the roof, she talked to the tree in the backyard, and she stood on furniture. She often put things in her hair for later retrieval, and then seemed to forget they were there. In very short order, her enormous tangle of hair became a vertical repository for pencils, leaves, tissues, and matches.

“We could cut it,” Orla suggested at one point.

Persephone said, “I do not think that is a decision one human can make for another human.”

Orla asked, “Even if that other human looks like a hobo?”

It was a point on which Blue and Orla agreed.

The worst part of it was that Gansey had offered to take her away — kept offering to take her away — and Persephone insisted Gwenllian stay with them.

“It takes longer than a weekend to undo centuries of damage,” Persephone said.

“Centuries of damage are being incurred in just a weekend,” Calla replied.

“She’s a very gifted psychic,” Persephone said mildly. “Eventually she will earn her keep.”

“And pay for my therapy,” Blue added.

“Good one,” Orla said. To reward Blue for her excellent comeback, she painted Blue’s fingernails to match the Pig, a polish color, she informed Blue, that was called Belligerent Candy.

Gansey kept trying to talk with Gwenllian, but she was always sassily deferential when he came to the house.

On top of that, Gansey had some sort of school commitment that he was cagey about, Ronan and Adam kept vanishing places together, and Noah couldn’t or wouldn’t come into 300 Fox Way.

Blue was feeling a little as if she had been locked into a madhouse.

Mom, it’s time for you to come home.

The Gray Man came over midweek, much to her gratitude.

“It’s me,” he called down the hallway as he stepped inside. Blue could see him from her homework post at the kitchen table; he was tidy and dangerous looking in a gray shirt and slacks. He looked more optimistic than the last time she had seen him.

Gwenllian, who was examining the roaring vacuum cleaner but not vacuuming with it, spotted him, too. “Hello, handsome sword! Have you killed anyone today?”

“One sword knows another,” he told her mildly, placing his car keys in his pocket. “Have you killed anyone?”

She was so delighted that she turned off the vacuum cleaner so that her insane smile could be the loudest thing in the hall.

“Mr. Gray, leave her alone and come get a cup of tea,” Blue called from the kitchen table. “You’ll make her start singing again.”

The Gray Man glanced over his shoulder at Gwenllian as he came into the kitchen and did as Blue instructed, taking a few minutes to find a tea more likely to provoke sanguinity than loose stools.

“I have been employed by your friends Mr. Parrish and Mr. Lynch,” he said as he sat down opposite Blue. So this is where those two were going! He tapped one of her algebra problems until she dragged it back to her and reworked it correctly. “They have a plan for Greenmantle, and it seems quite promising.”

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